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Rankings Spotlight: MMA’s Top 5 Featherweights

(“Admit it, you guys have no idea who I am, do you?” Pic: Heavy)

Still so relatively new to the UFC party, the sub-lightweight divisions are to MMA analysts as the New World must have been to early cartographers. We think we have a rough sketch of what’s out there, but the exact shape of things is a little foggy and once we get past the top two or three, we’re just gonna draw some squiggles and write something like “Here there be sea monsters!”

The featherweight class, for example, is still very much in the process finding its legs in the Octagon, with the promotional debut of champion Jose Aldo pushed back to UFC 129 due to the pain in his neck. Already however, there has been a pretty significant influx of talent into the 145-pound ranks since the UFC officially absorbed it at the beginning of this year. Michihiro Omigawa, Kenny Florian and Tyson Griffin have all plunged into the division, with more immigration sure to follow as the 155-pound division gets more and more crowded. We guess what we’re saying is, things can change fast in the land of the little man, so read our inaugural featherweight rankings now before something happens to render them moot.

Ben Goldstein:

1. Jose Aldo: He’s close to sweeping out his division in a way that only Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre can claim to have done. During his eight-fight stint in the WEC, only Urijah Faber was able to survive to the last bell against him — and he nearly lost a leg in the process. Joe-Zay’s a killer, and always a thrill to watch.

2. Hatsu Hioki: There’s always the worry that these “big in Japan” fighters aren’t as great as we think they are. Maybe Hioki would fizzle out in the Octagon just like Kid Yamamoto and Michihiro Omigawa before him. I’d love to find out. Other than his controversial decision loss against Omigawa, Hioki has defeated some of the best talent in his home country (as well as Canada, earlier in his career). Hioki’s last win over Marlon Sandro in December earned him a Sengoku title belt, and a more unofficial distinction as the baddest featherweight not under contract with Zuffa.

3. Chad Mendes: He might not be the UFC’s No. 1 featherweight contender (yet), but I have Money Mendes ranked above Mark Hominick because he’s undefeated, he’s fought twice as often as Hominick in the last three years, and he’s coming off a big win over top-ten ranked Michihiro Omigawa. The Team Alpha Male standout definitely seems to be next in line at this point.

4. Mark Hominick: An impressive five-fight win streak has earned the Canadian veteran a shot at Aldo’s crown. He has the firepower to take out anybody else in the division, but let’s be real: He’ll need a goddamned miracle on April 30th.

5. Marlon Sandro: The recent loss to Hioki hurts his ranking, but Sandro can still be the most dangerous 145-pounder in the world on any given night. His knockouts of Masanori Kanehara, Tomonari Konamata, Yuji Hoshino, and Nick Denis are literally painful to watch. Since he comes from the same Nova Uniao camp as reigning UFC champ Jose Aldo, we’re probably better off that Jon Jones, Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva, if you ask me. Aldo’s UFC debut has been temporarily waylaid by that neck injury, but as soon as he’s right and starts knocking fools out in the Octagon, I fully expect him to take his place alongside the aforementioned champions in terms of marketability.

2. Chad Mendes: Perhaps Mendes is yet a bit untested, but so far he hasn’t run up against anyone at 145-pounds who could even kind of deal with his skill set. His dismantling of Omigawa was impressive and I think he’d have a good chance to take care of any other Zuffa-owned 145-pounder as well, short of the man in charge.

3. Hatsu Hioki: I have to admit, every time I see this dude’s name I think: Who? Then I remember – oh, yeah – the Shooto guy or whatever. Can’t really argue with the data, including the win over Sandro and two over Hominick a few years back, but history tells us if Hioki ever got his shit together and came over to America, he’d immediately crumble under the pressure of the Octagon. Word is there’s been some mutual footsie going on between the fighter and the UFC, so maybe we’ll even get to see it someday. For now, I guess he’s No. 3.

4. Marlon Sandro: Signing with Bellator should give Sandro the opportunity to rack up a few more wins, including probably taking the title off Joe Warren at his earliest convenience. But the more the Zuffa, LLC empire tightens its grip on the MMA universe, you have to wonder: How long before we’re all one big happy family (of wage slaves)? Until then, it’s sheer guesswork how good guys like Sandro really are.

5. Mark Hominick: I’m not sure I can totally agree with BG’s sentiment that Aldo has almost cleaned out the division just because I feel like featherweight is just starting to blow up. Case-in-point the No. 5 spot on this list is (in my book, at least) pretty hotly contested between dudes like Hominick, Josh Grispi, Dustin Poirier, Erik Koch and (as soon as they get around to making their respective debuts) Florian and Griffin.

Mike Russell:

1. Jose Aldo: Aldo is a fighter who is already being talked about as being one of, if not THE best pound-for-pound fighter in MMA. I  do think it’s a bit premature to put him in a league with Anderson Silva, GSP and Fedor until we can see how he handles a guy with world-class striking and BJJ, but until that happens, he’ll probably keep dazzling us.

2. Hatsu Hioki: I’ve seen Hioki fight live against Mark Hominick and the dude had to be carried into the post-fight presser with both eyes swollen shut and ice bags on his face and legs — AND HE WAS THE WINNER. There’s no quit in the kid and he has the skills to beat anyone in the division.

3. Marlon Sandro: Sandro is one of those guys who can knock out or tap out pretty much anybody, but what makes him one of the best in the world is that he doesn’t hold back or play it safe because he has the skills to back up his recklessness.

4. Mark Hominick: I’ve long said that Hominick has the best technical stand-up in all of MMA and I think we’re going to see if I’m full of shit when he squares off with one of the most prolific and explosive strikers in the game (Aldo) at UFC 129. I don’t think this one is going to be decided on the mat, but however it goes down, expect fireworks.

5. Chad Mendes: Without his win over Omigawa, Mendes wouldn’t be on my list. With it, he’s on it and deserving of the label, “viable contender.”

On the cusp: Joe Warren, Bibiano Fernandes and Hiroyuki Takaya.

Cagepotato Comments

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xone01- March 25, 2011 at 12:22 pm
alright, i'm just gonna say it... hioki should not be on this list for the very simple reason of the time tested truth: japanese fighters don't live up to their hype once the octagon door closes. seriously. with the exception of yushin okami (who's genuinely top 5 in the mw division, but gets no love because people think he's "boring") there's not a single japanese fighter in any organization who i think should be involved in any kind of rankings discussion. bottom line, nationalism is great and all, but if you're that good you should be fighting here where the best fighters in the world compete.

now go ahead and hate, but remember me if/when hioki steps in the cage and gets proven to be a can.
Jonny5- March 24, 2011 at 7:17 pm
#1 Jose Aldo - you all seem to have that right....
#2 Hatsu Hioki - gotta put him at #2 with his recent win over Sandro
#3 Chad Mendes - 10-0 nuff' said
#4 Manny Gamburyan - still only loss at FW to ex champ MTB
#5 Michihiro Omigawa - really none of you feel that he should be ranked top 5 anymore just for losing to Mendes???

Mark Hominick I say isn't even top 10 yet... I mean how can you rank him above a Grispi or Poirier at this point? Sandro unfortunately just lost his belt to Hioki so he falls just outside the top 5 right behind Omigawa. Along with Sandro I'd say the other 2 guys "on the cusp" of top 5 would be Nunes and Warren.
intercept440- March 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm
fucking portugese always trying to be different, and ihateyourface the only dick tip around here is the one in your mouth *zing*
ihateyourface- March 24, 2011 at 11:28 am
Its Jo-Say Intercept because those "brown" people speak portugese you fucking dick tip. Also, Mendes doesnt belong on any top five list hes a wrestler who doesnt seem to train much of anything else. Thats what happens when you train with a bunch of egomaniacs with little man complexes.
PERPATRAITOR- March 24, 2011 at 1:37 am
Mendes has power in his punches. he's top 5 for sure.
RSparrow- March 24, 2011 at 12:06 am
I heard karma ate my cat just put faber to sleep in a sparring session!!! He's gotta be at least top 3 or 4
stopdrinkingpee- March 23, 2011 at 10:38 pm
Mendes, not Dundas. Or either way, I guess.
stopdrinkingpee- March 23, 2011 at 10:37 pm
Chad Mendes is a wrestler, not a mixed martial artist. He can't strike, and he can't submit anybody who doesn't have seven losses by choke. MIXED martial artist implies proficiency in more than one discipline.

Since you all picked the same top five, and MRuss put Mendes 5th (which isn't crazy) instead of 3rd (which is crazy) or 2nd (which is fucking batshit insane, seriously CD), I say Mike has the best list this time. But Mike, uh, your Fedor reference is a little out-of-date at this point.

Not ONE of you thinks Diego Nunes or Manny Gamburyan or Kenny Florian is top-five? I hope Jose leg-kicks you motherfuckers and Chad snuggles you for 15 minutes while you lie on the mat in agony.
intercept440- March 23, 2011 at 10:23 pm
and mike russell? fedor>>>?????? pound for pound.. are you fucking kidding me? you sir are fucking delusional, look at his last four fights.. and tell me anyone of note he's actually beaten that isnt a ufc cast off besides the black dude with teh mohawk, fuck you and your donkey too
intercept440- March 23, 2011 at 10:20 pm
ok im drunk , tired and leaving .... night cp nation
intercept440- March 23, 2011 at 10:18 pm
who the fuck are all these new posters?

and i dont give a fuck what he calls himself or what you call him.

it;s Ho Zay aldo.. he's brown dude the j sounds like a H in there language. just casue cuase spermacide fuck wants to be different he cant change an entire language... and call it JO SAY

it's HO ZAY , whether he likes it or not.. ther isnt a latin country on the planet that pronounces the J as A J they all pronounce it as an H fuck you HO ZAY and your donkey you rode in on
Danky4twanky- March 23, 2011 at 7:23 pm
Ninjavanish I agree completely. Mendes is a really amazing wrestler. But not much more at this point.
NinjaVanish- March 23, 2011 at 6:59 pm
Erik Koch deserves honorable mention. His last two fights were KO of the nights.

Mendes is horribly overated. Every time he fights I get to listen to the announcers slob on his nuts about how IMPROVED his striking has become since his last fight. Then he proceeds to throw one punch then lay on his opponent for 3 rounds, unless said opponent manages to give up his neck for one of those stupid little alpha male guillotines they love so much.
Danky4twanky- March 23, 2011 at 6:25 pm
Ya he has 8 losses but people get better dude. He will get destroyed by Aldo IMO, but that doesn't mean he isn't good.
Danky4twanky- March 23, 2011 at 6:23 pm
I mean look at the roop ko. I know George
Roop isn't thus amazing gift to mma but his striking is decent and he has crazy reach and ko power and hominick used technique and closed distance and pieced him up with crisp, short, precise combos. I'm telling you hominick really could be number two on that list. Mendes is impressive too but as far as being well rounded I think hominick is pretty slick.
Danky4twanky- March 23, 2011 at 6:19 pm
You guys are definitely selling hominick short. He stands no chance against Aldo fosho, BUT who in that division could. Hominick can stand with anyone in the division not named Joe-say and is good on the ground. I saw the hioki fight and you put him in the cage with hominick, I think hominick wins 9x outta 10. Namsayn.....
Pen Fifteen- March 23, 2011 at 5:54 pm

You also forgot the part where Hominick has 8 career losses, and has zero wins over anyone who is top 10 now or was top 10 when he fought them.
BIGHAL- March 23, 2011 at 5:19 pm
6th bitches
bigashs2- March 23, 2011 at 5:01 pm
I really think you guys aren't giving Hominick enough credit, and it seems like the only reason he's on your list is that he's facing Aldo. Hominick has walked through as many opponents as Aldo.
Vera- March 23, 2011 at 4:56 pm
Vera- March 23, 2011 at 4:56 pm
Pen Fifteen- March 23, 2011 at 4:53 pm
I'm confused by the felating of Mark Hominick in this thread. Most rankings don't even have him in the top 10. It's quite clear that he's "Patrick Cote special" with his title shot.
anarchy25- March 23, 2011 at 4:39 pm